Atlantic Director Report

Atlanta write up

One of the most frequent questions I have been asked since returning from Atlanta is “so what do you actually do as Atlantic Director?” The simple answer is that I represent the Atlantic district at the National organisation.

The NMRA has many organisational layers to it: Divisions, Regions and National. Divisions are the grass roots of the organisation with the majority of members belonging to one. Each division is different in the way it approaches the day to day activities with its members and are in discrete geographic areas. Regions bring all the divisions in a geographic area together and act, amongst many other things, as administrative centres.

The Atlantic Director represents the Atlantic District that currently covers the UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America. This is a voting district and has no real substance or organisation to it. This may seem large but there are only a handful of members outside of the UK and Europe at the moment. A Director represents all of their regions and members at the National level and the geographical districts ensure that viewpoints from all over the world are considered; of the 9 directors, 3 are from outside the USA.

The National organisation ensures that (in the USA) dues are administered, the finances are managed properly, the direction of travel of the whole organisation is considered, individual contributions are recognised at a high level, marketing and national initiatives take place, conventions are guided and supported where needed, the library and museum collections are accessible, relationships are built with manufacturers and the wider hobby, standards and conformance are maintained and finally that Member needs such as for training programmes/clinic material are met. That’s a lot of work for volunteers.

To ensure that all this and more continues, the National organisation has a number of Departments, staffed by volunteers, such as IT, marketing or standards and conformance. The heads of these departments also come to the National Board of Directors (BOD) meeting to report on what is happening in their areas and feed into discussions that affect them.

I arrived in Atlanta after 23 hours travelling and my first evening was the BOD caucus. A caucus is a meeting before the main meeting so that the Directors, on their own, can look at the agenda, discuss concerns and come to an understanding as to what is being suggested so as to save time later. Despite this the main BOD meeting still took one and a half days.

Here are some highlights of what happened at the Board of Directors Meeting over the weekend:

There were a number of new directors and reappointments. Former President Mike Brestel joined the Board as the new At-Large World-Wide Director and Western Director Jack Hamilton was returned for another term. Mike Yurgec was appointed to fill out the rest of the term for the vacant At-Large North America Director. Each director serves a 3 year term and can only serve two terms in each position. They then need to stand down for at least one term.

Don Phillips has taken over the position of Publications Department Manager and Bruce De Young is the new Education Department Manager.

One key role the BOD performs is recognising service by NMRA members. Ed and Gay Liesse of the Pacific Northwest Region were recognized with a “Fellow of the NMRA” award for their tireless promotional activities and support for the NMRA.

There was an update on the the NMRA Gallery Exhibit at the California State Railroad Museum which has now raised over $530,000 – enough to begin construction. Having seen the detail on this, it is a really exciting project with over half a million visitors annually. This gives the NMRA the ability to reach far more potential members. Called “the magic of scale model railroading”, the exhibit itself includes portions of iconic model railroads such as the San Juan Central railroad, built by Malcolm Furlow for Model Railroader magazine, plus key portions of Len Madsen’s Ophir, Colorado, scene, portions of Irv Schultz’s St. Clair Northern, the Clintwood section of Allen McClelland’s original Virginian and Ohio, and John Allen’s famous Timesaver. There will even be a special display depicting a new model railroad under construction, so that visitors can see each stage of creation, from initial benchwork to final details.

Bids have been received and a contract for a final design and fabrication will be signed soon. It’s estimated that a total of up to $750,000 will be needed to complete the project. It is important to stress that no member dues money will be used for the project, which relies on contributions. The projected opening date is Autumn 2014. Should you be travelling to California in 2015, put this on your list of sights!

The NMRA’s clinic program, now called EduTRAIN, is continuing to be developed. Originally started by Jim Six in the Michiana Division, it is a template that can assist Regions and Divisions in presenting clinics and it is an exciting new way to look at clinic presentations. Help can be provided in topics and the best way of presenting clinics.

Page Martin, the NMRA’s Marketing Director, has developed some exciting new projects. Many of these are US-based but can provide inspiration to us too. One example is “Build a Memory” which is designed to be offered by Home Depot stores during their Saturday morning hands-on clinics. “Build A Memory” shows participants how to build a 4’x4′ layout using products from Home Depot, Walthers, Bachmann, and Woodland Scenics. Joel Priest, (MMR aged 13), and Cinthia Priest built the demo layout in 7 days, along with a little help from NMRA Magazine editor Stephen Priest, MMR. The demo layout was on display at the Atlanta convention. The NMRA plan to introduce this program in six large-market Home Depot stores before Christmas and then to expand into many more areas by the end of 2015.

The 2017 convention bid was awarded to Orlando, Florida. I am so excited about this and not just because I love Mickey Mouse! It promises to be a world-class model railroad convention, coupled with large discounts to Disney attractions. The aim is to encourage families to come with their modelling parents or grandparents both making the conventions more accessible and interesting to more people.

Cleveland, Ohio, are hosting next year’s convention and they gave a presentation at the Saturday night banquet on what will be on offer. It looks really interesting and there will be some great tours available. The other future conventions are Portland, Oregon, in 2015 and Indianapolis in 2016. I’ve been to a couple of conventions now and they are really motivational, great fun, a superb way to meet new people and visit different parts of the States. I would encourage you to consider travelling to one if you can although I appreciate that it can be expensive to get there.

The final matter from the BOD meeting was the NMRA’s long-range plan, named “NMRA 2018”. Jack Hamilton, working with a number of members from around the globe, had pulled together a draft plan. Given the importance of getting this right, the BOD are taking an extra day at the half year meeting in February to ensure that the strategy is correct.

A number of members asked about the NMRA logo and how they could change it during the planning of the recent British Region marketing pamphlet. I raised this request at the BOD meeting and whilst the logo itself cannot be altered as it is trade marked, producing a style guide that goes beyond the logo will be looked at. I also raised the issue of a digital NMRA magazine. There are some very compelling reasons as to why we cannot do this at the moment, such as advertising constraints, delivery systems, print volumes and pricing, but this area is looked at annually and is certainly not forgotten. I’ll continue to raise it each year.

The international directors discussed voting methods and Australia has successfully used electronic voting in their latest National election. We have therefore drawn up a process that we hope to use next time a National position comes up. This will make the voting more accessible and cheaper but paper methods will still be available for those who prefer it.

Finally, I have undertaken to work with the non-British European members to help them set up a new Region. Please note that the British Region will not be affected by this. There are currently over 100 members living in the rest of Europe and 50 are needed to set up a new Region. The aim is to allow the membership to grow throughout Europe and as a country reaches the 50 member critical mass, they can then spin out into their own Region. I know that individuals in the British Region have been heavily involved in supporting their European colleagues and they are now keen to take this to the next level.

The next BOD meeting is in February so please do talk to me about any issues that you have and wish me to raise on your behalf.